Troubled Years Following the Reorganisation

The reorganisation and the new rules caused remarkably little friction within the Force, but, nevertheless, things did not go entirely smoothly.

Superintendent Hopkins was soon in trouble for allowing a soldier to escape from his custody without first having been brought to the station house, and for not interfering in a riot during an election.

The Superintendent then reported several constables for not paying respect to strangers and other persons in the street. This caused the Watch Committee to issue an instruction ordering the constables to carry out the Superintendent’s instructions in this respect on pain of being dismissed from the Force. 

Standing Orders defined the various beats and imposed the duty to call at the police office and record visits in the book provided, as well as not wasting any time in the office. Pocket books were issued in which to record the time street lamps were lit at night and extinguished in the morning, and any defective lamps had to be reported. 

In October, 1842, the new Town Hall police station was opened. 

In the following August, a new wage structure reduced constables’ wages to fourteen shillings a week on joining, increased after three months to fifteen shillings per week for the following nine months. For the second year the pay was raised to seventeen shillings a week, the third year to nineteen shillings, and from the fourth year to twenty shillings per week. From this time the committee provided the constables with winter boots.

In the early hours of a September morning, Constables Walters and Hill were found in the Parrot Hotel. They alleged that they had been keeping observation but had been spotted by the maid and called for a drink as an excuse. They were cautioned by the committee and advised that if they “partook of any refreshment they should have it brought to the door.”

In February, 1844, it was reported that the magistrates spent quite a lot of time in the police office so that it was necessary for cushions to be provided for their use, and for the door leading from the Court to be altered to prevent draught.

In the previous year, when conditions in the town were pretty grim, with hundreds of people destitute, Constable Huxtable, as he was then, had been appointed to supervise the Old Poor House, Stow Hill. and his wife had been appointed matron. Huxtable was well qualified for this post for prior to joining the Force he had been a task master at the old House of Correction or Bridewell at Usk. It is indicative of the distress prevailing at this time that between January and May, 1845, no fewer than 12,872 Irish persons were given food and accommodation by the Board of Guardians in Newport, to say nothing of the relief given to Newport people as well. 

The first action taken to establish a “lost property office ” occurred about 1845, when the police found a “barrow of muck ” and as no one claimed it, notices were posted on the Council House and the station house doors, and the committee directed that similar action should be taken in all future cases of unclaimed found property. 

The work of the police was already varied but the Improvement Commissioners asked the Watch Committee if the police could take over the duty of locking the pump handle outside the Salutation Hotel. Incidentally, so anxious was the Superintendent to please the committee that he used his own horse and cart to convey a prisoner to prison. 

In 1845, members of the Force must have had a busy time in maintaining law and order, because Newport then had over 60 inns and 300 beerhouses – one for every thirty-nine inhabitants. In the following year the police were given additional duties, the enforcement of the town’s first bye-laws. These were the first attempt to clean the town, regulate existing nuisances and prevent street obstructions. Crime, too, was being dealt with effectively, as the following advertisement in the “Monmouthshire Merlin “, of the 13th February, 1847, shows


EDWARD HOPKINS, Superintendent of Police in Newport, publicly and gratefully acknowledges the handsome Testimonial presented to him by Mr Milner, of Milton, and other gentlemen in the parish of Christchurch, in approbation of services rendered by him in the capture and prosecution of Frederick Williams, who was found guilty and sentenced to seven years’ transportation at the last Usk Sessions for stealing a sheep, the property of Mr Milner. 

Police Station, Newport. 6th February, 1847 .

In September of this year, Constable Pennimore was cautioned by the Watch Committee for neglect of duty. He had been ordered by the Superintendent to take a female to the station house, but instead he took her home for the night and brought her to the station in the morning. 

At the same meeting, Constable Hayward was charged with “taking by the collar” a man he had seen ill-treating a female. His action was approved and the charge dismissed. 

In January, 1848, Superintendent Hopkins resigned and Sergeant Huxtable was directed to carry out his duties until a successor was appointed. 

The post was advertised, and Stephen English, of London, was appointed from 5th February, 1848.

The Watch Committee stipulated that English must devote the whole of his time to police duties and that all fines and fees received by him in this capacity or acting as informer, or by virtue of any office to which he might be appointed, should be paid to the credit of the Watch Committee.

One of Superintendent English’s first actions was to place a constable in the flat at the Town Hall police station and order him to keep the place clean for the profit he would make from the supply of prisoners’ meals.

The Superintendent soon took action against licensees keeping their premises open for concerts after midnight on Saturday nights, and in this he had the magistrates’ support, for they stated that they would consider not renewing the licences of persons offending. The Superintendent was requested to recall all weights from shopkeepers and others, but was precluded from taking proceedings until he had first informed the magistrates of the names of those persons whose weights were deficient.

Superintendent English, like his predecessors, was soon being criticised. It was reported that he had been tried at the Assize in 1850,  although the specific charge is not stated, but the Watch Committee declared their confidence in him. It is only fair to say that although in April, 1839, Mr Justice Patterson had severely criticised Superintendent Hopkins at that time for irregularities, it was he who acquitted Superintendent English on this later occasion. At the next Assize the Superintendent was commended by Lord Chief Justice Campbell for the part he and Constable Harlow took in the case of two men charged with the murder of a Mrs Lewis. They were both awarded the sum of £5 by the judge and the Watch Committee made an additional award. Constable Harlow was then reinstated as a sergeant in view of his good work in this case.

On 10th February, 1852, Superintendent English was accused before the Watch Committee of borrowing money from beerhouse keepers, receiving bribes, allowing spirits to be drunk on unlicensed premises and failing to report the matter and also with cruelty and arrogance in the discharge of his duty. There is no record of the committee’s findings, but in April, when he tendered his resignation, the committee’s minutes refer to him as “a sober, intelligent and active officer.”

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